Nurses and Nurse Scientists need to have the tools to INFLUENCE and understand HEALTH POLICY. – Alison Hernandez, PhD, RN

Health care policy has crucial implications for all of us who rely on our health care system. Behind this pursuit are dedicated nursing professionals who advocate for specific policies they believe will benefit us. In this week’s episode, we are joined by Alison Hernandez, PhD, RN and Carla McGarvey.


Part One of ‘How Nurses Can Influence Health Policy (HAPF SERIES) With Alison Hernandez’

Dr. Alison Hernandez is a bi-lingual, bi-cultural Mexican-American Registered Nurse (RN). She has her PhD in Nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Currently, Alison is a Disability Policy Research Fellow at Northwestern University’s Center for Education in Health Sciences. She is trained as a bio-behavioral health researcher and has a broad interest in older adult health and longevity. Her current research focuses on improving wellness programming for older adults by promoting exercise, nutrition, social engagement, and happiness. Alison’s long-term goal is to inform policy through evidence-based practices that help older adults live longer, high-quality lives. Carla McGarvey is currently Congresswoman Donna Shalala’s Legislative Director and deputy chief of staff.

The most successful fellowships are where we can integrate the fellow into the staff as much as possible, and essentially make them another staff member.
– Carla McGarvey

Alison Hernandez has always been interested in how things like exercise and social engagement can improve the overall emotional health of older adults. So, she used that as her dissertation theme and focused on more clinical-type research. She started to get more interested in translational science and policy. Her curiosity about how policy affects everything we do has brought her to Northwestern University in Chicago, which offers a two-year integrated postdoc fellowship called the Disability Policy Research Fellowship.

She took courses like health economics, health policy, and health services research methods. The second-year of the postdoc feeds into the Health and Aging Policy Fellowship in Washington, D.C, culminating in a hands-on experience to learn about government and the legislative process. She has spent her fellowship year in the office of Congresswoman Donna Shalala (FL-27), who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration. Hernandez knew that Congresswoman Shalala is a health policy expert and a long time champion of nurses. It’s an exciting journey for her knowing that more nurses and scientists need to have the tools to influence policy that directly affect patients and their community.

Part Two of ‘How Nurses Can Influence Health Policy (HAPF SERIES) With Alison Hernandez’

Hernandez was lucky to take charge of one bill, in particular. This legislation is H.R. 5076 the Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act. The bill, which is relevant to older adults, reconciles the Medicare Part B vaccine side with Medicare Part D vaccine side.

Vaccines covered under Medicare Part D—Tdap, shingles, new vaccines—require varying levels of out-of-pocket costs for patients that can reduce uptake of vaccines and therefore impact immunization rates. By contrast, vaccines covered under Medicare Part B—such as flu and pneumococcal—require no out of pocket costs from patients, leading to higher immunization rates.

We have thousands of people every year, especially older adults, who are dying of vaccine-preventable disease. Research has shown that even a small copay can deter older adults, living on fixed incomes, to get a vaccine that could prevent disease. These vaccine-preventable diseases are not only costly, but can also cause severe illness or even death. So, the bill eliminates any cost on the Medicare Part D side.

When you look at the Caucasian and African-American population, the least number of providers are Hispanic and Native American. –  Melissa Batchelor,

In celebration and recognition of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the National Association of Hispanic Nurses approached Dr. Hernandez. They wanted to work on introducing a resolution that would highlight and celebrate Hispanic nurses on a particular day during Hispanic Heritage Month.

The resolution will hopefully name September 22nd as
National Hispanic Nurses Day.”

The idea behind having these resolutions and assigned days is to highlight the work, intelligence, and diversity that exists within nursing. Nurses from minority backgrounds represent only 19.2% of the total registered nurse (RN) workforce. Bilingual and bicultural nurses are critical as they provide culturally-competent care for the Hispanic and Spanish-speaking population. Building a more diverse nursing workforce is a key part of providing quality healthcare for a progressively diverse population.



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About Melissa:

Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN. I am a nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse educator and nurse researcher with over 25 years of experience in the aging and long-term care healthcare space. You can visit my website at to learn more about me, how you can work with me directly,
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